NBN critic and historic Liberal supporter Henry Ergas wins Australia Day honours


news One of the most strident critics of Labor’s original National Broadband Network policy and open Liberal Party supporter Henry Ergas has received one of the highest honours in this year’s Australia Day awards, and will now become an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

In the Governor-General’s announcement documents relating to this year’s Australia Day honours, Ergas is listed as becoming an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia, for what is described as “distinguished service to infrastructure economics, and to higher education, to public policy development and review, and as a supporter of emerging artists”.

The document pertaining to Ergas notes that he has served as the Inaugural Professor of Infrastructure Economics at the SMART Research Centre at the University of Wollongong, since 2009.

Ergas also served as the Senior Economic Adviser at Deloitte Access Economics from 2009 to 2014.

He has been a member of the Advisory Board at the Centre of Regulatory Economics at the Australian National University, since 2004, and has been an Adjunct Professor at the School of Economics at the National University of Singapore, since 2004.

Ergas has also been a key figure in a number of review panels, such as the Vertigan Expert Panel on the National Broadband Network Review in 2013, the Defence Industry Policy Review conducted by the Defence Materiel Organisation in 2006 and the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Export Infrastructure in 2005.

Ergas was the chair of the Intellectual Property and Competition Review Committee of the Department of the Attorney General from 1999-2000, as well as being a member of the Advisory Panel on Telecommunications Reform to the Minister for Communications and the Arts in 1997.

The economist was the chairman of Concept Economics from 2008-2009, as well as the Vice-President and Regional Head, Asia Pacific of CRA International from 2004-2007.

Ergas was also the Managing Director of Network Economics Consulting Group (NEGG) Australia from 1996-2004; Counsellor for Structural Policy at the Economics Department of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), France, 1991-1993 and Head, Secretary-General’s Task Force on Structural Adjustment, 1978-1987; and the Founding Head of the Information and Communication Technology Studies Centre at Monash University from 1987-1991.

Ergas has also been a major philanthopist, with his roles including:

  • Founder, The Ergas Collection, since 2000, (a not-for-profit company which supports the work of emerging artists).
    Director and Benefactor, Red Room Company, since 2007.
  • Benefactor, Australian National University School of Art, since 2005.
  • Benefactor, Radford College Art Show, 2011-2013.
  • Benefactor, Queensland Art Gallery, 2010.
  • Benefactor, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2009.
  • Benefactor, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2009.
  • Benefactor, Wollongong City Gallery, 2011.
  • Board Member, Australian National University Visual Arts Foundation, 2010-2013.

However, Australia’s technology community will remember Ergas best as a direct supporter of the Liberal Party as well as a critic of Labor’s near-universal Fibre to the Premises policy.

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that Ergas had handed out how to vote cards for the Liberal Party at the 2013 Federal Election, supporting Liberal Senate candidate for the ACT Zed Seselja, who was successful in his bid to be elected.

In addition, Ergas has long been one of the most strident critics of Labor’s previous NBN policy. In an article published in The Australian newspaper in late October 2013, for example, Ergas stated that “the greatest disasters” in government bore “Labor’s mark”. In the article, Ergas compared the NBN to the problematic Collins-class submarine project, and questioned many of the bases for its existence.

Ergas has published a succession of such articles over several years. For example, in May 2010 he published a strident critique of the NBN implementation study through industry newsletter Communications Day, writing: “… the Study, with a degree of British understatement, rightly notes that the model the government has chosen – a public monopoly, extending, at least for the first dozen years, to the active service – “departs from the collective experience in most other markets” … Given the very high costs this project involves, and the fact those costs and risks must, on the Study’s own numbers, fall largely on taxpayers, a visitor from Mars might well wonder quite what we are doing.”

In a submission to the NBN Senate Select Committee in October 2009, Ergas argued that the costs of building the NBN exceeded its benefits by somewhere between $14 billion and $20 billion. The economist also publishes regular columns and a blog for The Australian newspaper, which has been highly critical of the NBN policy over a sustained period.

Image credit: University of Wollongong


  1. Hey Renai, you forgot to mention his advocacy and support for Telstra.
    Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) …. For services to the Liberal Party and private enterprise.

  2. I can think of a few million people more deserving than him, but then I guess most of the population aren’t buddies with the government.

    • Rich man riches it up, complains about handouts from the government and gets awards.

      News at eleven.

  3. Just as well Abbott isn’t still leader off the Libs otherwise he would have been Sir Henry Ergas, knighted for his role in trashing the NBN.

  4. Yet another nail in the Australia Day coffin. Not only has it become the day bogans drive around with Australian flags on their cars yelling out to tell anyone who doesn’t look western European to go back to their country. Now it’s used to reward those whose partisan political behavior has benefited the government of the day.

  5. This is about as funny as what Australia Day is. A day when a ship load of convicts and to be future Australians, arrive in Port Jackson.

    They were sent here for what we’d consider minor crimes. While Henry Ergas participated in a rather large crime. Ahh, Starya, you’re step’n it up mate.

  6. He got one thing right: Ergas stated that “the greatest disasters” in government bore “Labor’s mark”.

    This not to say that Labor got everything wrong, I can count three things they got right, and the NBN was the last.

    But he can be forgiven for thinking Labor is a wasteland of incompetency.

    • I’m guessing a lot of people would have agreed with your closing statement…

      …and then along came Tony Abbott to take incompetence to a whole new level.

  7. The Oz opinion piece is deserving of a medal alone:

    “And who has been held to account for pink batts and for school halls? No one.

    In a classic study of major program failures, economist David Henderson emphasised the “unimportance of being right”: the fact that there were few rewards for long-term success, and few penalties for those involved in projects that had plainly failed. Twenty years on, that lesson has still not been learned.

    Far easier instead to rely on shams such as Keating’s and Albanese’s, while shifting the costs to future taxpayers. Little wonder getting these programs right has proved so intractable. And little wonder the dollars thrown at these vast programs result in more and more of worse and worse.”

    Lodge renovation completed the other day. Long delayed and multiples of original budget. No one will be held accountable, govt going from one disaster to another. Taking up debt, extorting even more from the private sector.

    • Your argument is invalid. Misdirection to other failures (whether true or not) doesn’t make Henry Ergas’s award any less of a travesty.

      I know what medal the Oz should be getting, a representation of a gilded turd.

    • I believe there was a ‘not so political” inquiry around the pink batts program along with a few others around Labor party actions – nothing has stuck.

      I look forward to your support in a future inquiry into what has happened with the NBN including the company, the liberal party and compliant MSM.

      • I was truly amazed by the whole “pink batts” episode, dodgy private operators with poor safety cause the deaths and the ALP takes the blame – just highlights to me how partisan our media is!

        • No different to the unions RC when what was needed is a RC into the whole building industry, there was and is enough corruption and routing to go around although extending it beyond the unions was likely to catch and LNP backers and staffers when it was designed to only catch Labor backers and staffers.

          • Oh but corruption is only bad when done by unions didn’t you know. If the business management are corrupt.. oh that’s just business.

            I am all for corruption being stamped out. I don’t have a particular love for the union movement in Australia, but witch hunts are not justice.

          • Yeah the Libs got burnt by the Howard initiated RC into Union corruption that ended up getting their corporate mates into a lot of trouble and caused the Unions almost no grief at all. This time around they specifically excluded corporate wrongdoing from scrutiny.

          • There there are the deaths on Jaxon Construction sites, not to mention many more on many other building sites annually which pass almost unnoticed except by grieving dependents. http://goo.gl/lATg1O

    • There’s so many appropriate tracks to choose from, born dumb, I sucked a lot of ‘rooster’ to get where I am, I will lick your butt hole, all fake everything, are you being served, I couldn’t do it….

  8. Forgetting about his actions in the regards to the NBN and the LNP policy development I think he was deserving of an OAM.

    OAM General Division – ‘Service in a particular locality or field of activity or to a particular group’.
    I would say he has done that in the art community, and is deserving even if you don’t agree with his politics although often to get a look in on this list there is some politics involved.

    AO General Division – ‘Distinguished service of a high degree to Australia or to humanity at large’.
    This is more questionable, and does make the award look a little more political. There are a few more on the list that might be political or favors for mates if you just look at the ACs and AO but most of those would still be deserving of an OAM.

    Full list with some details on why each person received their awards are here https://www.gg.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/honours/ad/ad2016/dvvsf4sc1d05nwgt/Gazette%20-%20O%20of%20A.pdf.

    • “Service in a particular locality…” Every doctor who practices for any length of time would qualify. As would a local gardener who looks after the gardens of elderly customers for many years.

  9. Then there is Mitch Hooke http://goo.gl/0jn1PG who poisoned the well for collecting needed substantial revenue for public purposes while discouraging energy use. Which party will ever have the courage now to raise indirect tax revenue by taxing energy use rather than the consumption of fresh food or those who spend their income on health care or education?

    Paul Budde is the one who deserves, but will not be offered, a high ranking gong except that the currency has been terminally debauched.

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